Litter is your business

ANYONE who has ever tried to organise a litter clean-up in their area will have found a number of willing volunteers, but also people who believe it’s “the council’s job’’ and not theirs.

But, most people by now realise that councils do not have the resources to pick up litter in every street, road and estate. Nor did they ever have, realistically speaking.

A Cork reader has been in contact to voice his disgruntlement with local authorities who, he says, have failed to co-operate with him in his efforts with clean-ups he has organised in his area.

He says he finally engaged with a councillor on the issue after which the councillor received the following reply from a council engineer: “The Council area staff do not carry out litter clean ups. We assist local communities and residents’ groups that want to do same by collecting the bagged rubbish and providing them with bags/gloves etc to do so.”

The clear inference to be drawn is that the council no longer feels it is responsible for cleaning up in public areas.

But, our correspondent then goes on to quote the Litter Pollution Act 1997 which states that the local authority is responsible for keeping public places that are under its control, (including public roads), clear of litter as far as is practicably possible. This includes the arrangement of cleansing programmes.

It is often said a coach and four can be driven through many laws and you don’t have to be a legal eagle to spot the loophole here which is provided by the condition, ‘’as far as is practicably possible’’. That gives a way out on the basis of lack of funds, staff etc to do the work.

So, the council then puts the onus on despairing local communities to keep their areas litter-free, which many are doing with help from the council which can also collect the bagged rubbish.

The idea is to have collaboration between the council and the community, which is fast becoming the only way to get things done. Killarney, which, for some years, has a well-organised, litter-picking programme, (all voluntary), is an example. And the volunteers have been given due credit for the tourist town’s overall success in the 2011 Tidy Towns’ competition.

It looks as if people will themselves have to keep their areas clean. As I heard one man say recently, if everyone picked up the litter 100 metres either side of their homes, it would go a long way to keeping Ireland clean.


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